Cross-examination in court can be distressing for vulnerable or intimidated victims, such as victims of sexual violence. Publicly providing evidence of traumatic, degrading or abusive events can upset or further traumatise the victim, especially when speaking in front of or being directly cross-examined by their alleged abuser.
Between 2013 and 2016 the government piloted a scheme where child victims and some vulnerable adult victims were given the option of pre-recording their cross-examination evidence before the trial. Plans were made to roll-out the scheme nationwide and to extend it to victims of sexual violence from 2017. But the date was pushed back indefinitely by the end of that year.
Just before the general election the government had been in the process of passing the Prisons and Courts Bill and legislating to ban cross-examination of victims of domestic violence, which includes sexual violence, by alleged abusers. But the bill fell as the general election was called.
A study of domestic violence by Queen Mary University and Women’s Aid found that a quarter (24%) of the women interviewed had been cross-examined by their abusive ex-partners in court.
Following a consultation from March to May 2018, in January 2019 the government published its response and a draft Domestic Abuse Bill. The draft bill contains provisions which, if it becomes law, may fulfil this policy pledge and prohibit cross-examination of victims of sexual violence in court.
In light of the draft bill, we’re marking this policy as ‘in progress’. We’ll be tracking the development of the bill, as well as consulting with independent organisations as to whether the proposed legislation offers protection from in-court cross-examination for “all” victims of sexual violence. Follow this policy for updates.
Want more detail?
- Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: Consultation Response and Draft Bill – Gov.uk
- Process evaluation of pre-recorded cross-examination pilot (Section 28) – Gov.uk
- Revealed: how family courts allow abusers to torment their victims – The Guardian
- Ministers shelve pledge on women’s safety – The Guardian
- Domestic abuse survivors will not have to come face-to-face with perpetrators in court under Government proposals – The Independent
- Domestic abusers still able to cross-examine victims in court – The Guardian